Effect of parental weight status on the food packed in preschool children's lunches

Tina Mishra Satapathy, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Problem. Recent statistics show that over a fifth of children aged 2-5 years in 2006-2008 were overweight, with 7% above the 97 th percentile of the BMI-for-age growth charts (extreme obesity). Because poor diet is an important environmental determinant of obesity and the preschool years are crucial developmentally, examination of factors related to diet in the pre-school years is important for obesity prevention efforts. Objective. The goals of this study were to determine the association between BMI of the parents and the number of servings of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains (FVWG) packed; the nutrient content of preschool children’s lunches; and norms and expectations about FVWG intake. Methods. This study was a cross sectional analysis of parents enrolled in the Lunch is in the Bag program at baseline. The independent measure was weight status of the parents/caregivers, which was determined using body mass index (BMI) calculated from self-reported height and weight. BMI was classified as healthy weight (BMI <25) or overweight/obese (BMI ≥25). Outcomes for the study included the number of servings of fruits, vegetables and whole grains (FVWG) in sack lunches, as well as the nutrient content of the lunches, and psychosocial constructs related to FVWG consumption. Linear regression analysis was conducted and adjusted for confounders to examine the associations of these outcomes with parental weight status, the main predictor. Results. A total of 132 parent/child dyads were enrolled in the study; 59.09% (n=78) of the parents/caregivers were healthy weight and 39.01% (n=54) of the parents/caregivers were overweight/obese. Parents/caregivers in the study were predominantly white (68%, n=87) and had at least some college education (98%, n=128). No significant associations were found between the weight status of the parents and the servings of fruits, vegetables and whole grain packed in preschool children’s lunchboxes. The results were similar for the association of parental weight status and the nutrient contents of the packed lunches. Both healthy weight and overweight/obese parents packed less than the recommended amounts of vegetables (mean servings = 0.49 and 0.534, respectively) and whole grains (mean servings = 0.58 and 0.511, respectively). However, the intentions of the obese/overweight parents were higher compare to the healthy for vegetables and whole grains. Conclusion. Results from this study indicate that there are few differences in the servings of fruits, vegetables and whole grains packed by healthy weight parents/caregivers compared to overweight/obese parents/caregivers in a high income, well-educated population, although neither group met the recommended number of servings of vegetables or whole grains. Thus, results indicate the need for behaviorally-based health promotion programs for parents, regardless of their weight status; however, this study should be replicated with larger and more diverse populations to determine if these results are similar with less homogenous populations.

Subject Area

Nutrition|Public health|Epidemiology

Recommended Citation

Satapathy, Tina Mishra, "Effect of parental weight status on the food packed in preschool children's lunches" (2010). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1479780.